The world’s first academic TikTok experiment with Markus Rach.
Pentos conducted an interview with Markus Rach. Markus is a full-time marketing lecturer and teaches marketing, digital technology, sales and strategy at university level in China and Switzerland. Early 2020, Markus engaged on an experiment on TikTok to grow an account from 0 views, 0 followers to 50K followers and millions of views. His goal was to get a single 1 million view upload. Markus captured his experience in two books. One focused on his personal experience on the platform. The other book centers around educational brands and why they should have a closer look at TikTok for their educational brand marketing. He is also the author of the world’s first paper on TikTok’s EduTok initiative.
First of all, how was your experience on the platform? What triggered you to do this?
Well, I’m not a creator or an influencer and had no aspirations whatsoever to become one. As a marketing consultant, I was conducting a social media workshop late 2019 and tried to convince that client to be more outgoing and engaging. In that process, I put a bet on the table. A professional marketing team against me. We both start empty handed, with a clean account on TikTok. The goal: to have a single 1 million view upload. So, on January 14th, I uploaded my first TikTok.
Was this your first TikTok experience?
Yes, it was my first active TikTok experience, although I was following musica.ly, Douyin and TikTok actively for quite some while. However, like most users, I did not engage in creating content.
How did I feel to transform into a creator on TikTok?
It was odd at first. From an age perspective, I border to be called a boomer. That meant I’m not the platform’s main demographic; additionally, I didn’t want to make a fool out of myself. Since I knew I had to find a niche that allowed me to create content in the long run and dancing was out of the picture, I chose to do car centric videos. This allowed me to produce content consistently and quickly.
How long did it take to achieve your goal?
A bit over 5 weeks. My first few clips got in the 5-digit views, which was already exciting if you look at the reach you usually get on other platforms. My first upload to cross the million-view mark was super exciting. The video ended up with 9.6 million views. I thus won the bet but started to enjoy goofing around TikTok.
What did you take from this experience / experiment?
First of all, it was a fun experiment! As a marketer, I do like to get my hands dirty and as an academic I do like to understand the mechanics of user interactions. TikTok is a fast-moving platform, thus I had ample of learning opportunities. My biggest learning centered however around losing a deeply engrained fear to post. As a quasi-boomer, one tends to think about a single social media post a lot. Engaging on TikTok, although I don’t show myself in my uploads, made me lose that hesitation to engage rather quickly.